To bring up coffee and Melbourne in the same sentence is to invoke responses and discussion that vary from the nostalgic to the competitive to the blind faithful and the pretentious. Everyone in Melbourne has a favourite cafe and coffee, and will likely defend both to the near-death. What would you expect from the city that claims it has the best coffee and that it invented the flat white?
Market Lane Coffee's Collins Street outdoor seating, watching the world go by
Market Lane Coffee brings us back from the excesses of cold press, flavoured, boutique inventions, and back to the basics of quality espresso, excellent baristas, with perfect crema and milk froth. Market Lane Coffee's mission, after all, is "to make good coffee accessible and exciting, simple to understand and appreciate, and easy to brew and enjoy." Melburnian since its 2009 inception, Market Lane Coffee is dedicated to high quality coffee, and their takeaway cups are stencilled with "We love to make coffee for the city that loves to drink it." With in-house roasters preparing beans for grinding at their Prahran Market cafe, each of Market Lane Coffee's five shops brew on-site for customers, and also help 'teach a person to fish' in offering a range of equipment, supplies and resources to help people brew delicious coffee at home. Their website is also helpful in providing a brew guide for different types of coffee, a journal / blog, and an online store for their coffee club, coffee classes, and for equipment purchases.
Roasting at Market Lane Coffee's flagship Prahran Market shop
I've been to three of Market Lane Coffee's five shops, and am always impressed with the consistency of high-quality coffee, very friendly and professional baristas and waitstaff, and quick service. With their flagship Prahran Market shop buzzing, particularly on Saturdays, it doesn't take long to find a seat or to wait for a takeaway (one size only). Market Lane Coffee offers a nice, personal touch whereby the cashier / server takes your name as they take your order. While Starbucks do the same, Market Lane Coffee consistently make you feel like you're their friend and they're delighted to be making you a coffee. Seating is limited inside and outside their new, cute Collins Street shop (near Parliament Station), and you could almost walk past it if you weren't paying attention (save for the line out the door during morning rush hour). Market Lane Coffee's Queen Victoria Market shop fits right in with the communal feel of the neighbourhood, in a former pharmacy with old-fashioned nooks and crannies in which to sit and take a break as the world rushes by outside. Each shop offers some snacks and light food, not exactly a cafe, but perfect to accompany a good coffee. The exception is Prahran Market, where each Saturday they bring a barbecue around the side for their renowned Mushroom Burgers.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Collins Street
As for the coffee itself, I'm no roaster, grinder, barista or brewer, but i do enjoy a latté, flat white and espresso regularly. Market Lane Coffee tastes 'clean' and lightly sweet, without the bitter aftertaste that sometimes accompanies single-origin. The crema is smooth, and the all-important milk creamy with the right layering, velvet bubbles and top froth. The one-size-only helps ensure the coffee shot is strong enough, and I haven't had a coffee at the wrong temperature or tasting inconsistent, across their shops.
I remember my first Market Lane Coffee latté was with my partner, and on our first sip, after a few weeks of trying to find a new cafe with consistently good coffee, we sighed decadently and knew we had found a keeper. Since then, it's a morning ritual and treat to have a MLC coffee (always accompanied with a relieved sigh). Not every morning, but that makes it all the more special when we do.
I stood and watched a "pour over" coffee being prepared at the Market Lane QV market site and the method was not correct. The person was pouring hot water through the filter to generate the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee in the receiving vessel. It sat there for some minutes before an or der was placed and half the contents poured out a a single serve, without any stirring, with the other "half" left for the next order, whenever that may be. Not what I was expecting and a number of baristas I have spoken to have said it must be a single serve method for optimum extraction and consistency in flavour.